CPU

Core i7-11700K Review: The Chip of Last Resort

The $399 Intel Core i7-11700K processor slots into Intel’s Rocket Lake product stack at a price point that squeezes between two of AMD’s most popular Ryzen 5000 processors. The 11700K’s pricing should make it an attractive chip if you want the most performance from a mainstream Intel platform that you can get without paying the flagship price, but it faces stiff competition from the AMD chips that have dominated our list of Best CPUs (at least when they’re available at retail).

Cypress Cove, Intel’s first new architecture for desktop PC chips in six years, grants the Rocket Lake chips a 19% increase in IPC in most workloads. But the backported Cypress Cove (which was designed for 10nm) comes with a big tradeoff: Rocket Lake is still etched on the 14nm process and tops out at eight cores and sixteen threads. That’s a step back from the previous-gen 10-core Comet Lake i9 models and pales in comparison to AMD’s beastly 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X flagship.

Rocket Lake’s 19% IPC gain largely offsets the performance hit from the reduced core count, but it left Intel in a tough spot as it carved its product stack into Core i9 and Core i7 families — both series top out at the same eight cores.

The $399 Core i7-11700K fits the definition of being a lower-end Core i9-11900K with the same eight cores and sixteen threads as the $539 flagship. And you could also save some cash by opting for the graphics-less Core i7-11700KF (it’s identical in every other aspect) and score the chip for $374. That opens up a $75 gap between the 11700K and the Ryzen 7 5800X, which also doesn’t come with an integrated graphics engine.

To account for the vagaries of binning and to hamstring the 11700K to create artificial segmentation, Intel dropped the 11700K’s peak boost frequency by 300 MHz compared to the Core i9-11900K, reduced the memory frequencies in low-latency mode, and dropped its support for the new Adaptive Boost Technology (ABT). The ABT tech is effectively an auto-overclocking feature that doesn’t void your warranty, but the 11700K is a fully overclockable chip. That means that losing that feature, or the extra 300 MHz of peak boost speed, might not dissuade overclockers looking to save $140 over the 11900K.

Rocket Lake Headliners
Suggested Price Cores / Threads Base (GHz) Peak Boost (Dual/All Core) TDP iGPU
RKL-S Core i9-11900K (KF) $539 (K) – $513 (KF) 8 / 16 3.5 5.3 / 4.8 125W UHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i7-11700K (KF) $399 (K) – $374 (KF) 8 / 16 3.6 5.0 / 4.6 125W UHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i5-11600K (KF) $262 (K) – $237(KF) 6 / 12 3.9 4.9 (TB2) / 4.6 125W UHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i5-11400 (F) $182 – $157 6 / 12 2.6 4.4 (TB2) / 4.2 65W UHD Graphics 730 Xe 24EU

The 11700K drops into a gaping hole in AMD’s product stack — AMD has a $150 gap between the $449 Ryzen 7 5800X, which also comes with eight cores, and the $299 six-core Ryzen 5 5600X. The obvious pricing gap in AMD’s stack should give the 11700K some breathing room for now, though AMD says that its upcoming Ryzen 5000 G-series chips, otherwise known as the ‘Cezanne’ APUs, will plug that pricing gap when the $359 Ryzen 5 5700G comes to market in August 2021.

However, the 5700G appears to target the downstream Core i7-11700 instead of the K series model, giving the 11700K the opportunity to thrive as a less-expensive 11900K and/or Ryzen 7 5800X alternative. It just so happens that Intel’s own strict segmentation impacts the 11700K’s performance significantly, reducing its appeal.

Lately though, the winning chip is the chip that you can actually buy. As such, the Core i7-11700K has benefited from one almost insurmountable advantage — availability. AMD has been hamstrung by supply shortages spurred by pandemic-related supply chain disruptions coupled with unprecedented demand, leading to price gouging on nearly its entire stack.

Supply is improving for AMD, though, and the Ryzen 7 5800X has been broadly available at or near its MSRP for roughly the past month. And supplies seem to be holding steady, setting up a pitched battle with the Core i7-11700K. 

Intel Core i7-11700K Specifications and Pricing

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